Earning the trust of a dragon

As I near Odys and I’s two year anniversary of meeting, I am noticing more and more signs of a deepening relationship. The ally ship that we have formed speaks to high trust, effective communication and a sense of equality.

Something that I’ve sat with a lot since re-entering horse-personship as an adult is the act of relationship building. Is it possible to build a foundational relationship with our horse when the sport’s norms have for so long been one sided in nature?

Of course, most (I like to think) riders and trainers have good intentions, and I know for myself in the past I’ve met my horse partners limitations and emotionally burnt out trying to ask more from them in ways they couldn’t give. From the start with Odys I wanted there to be a sense of agency and sovereignty for us both. It’s been quite the journey understanding what that means in our partnership and for us as individuals.

A guidepost for me throughout the journey was noticing consistently Odys’s willingness to be present with me. Simple things like will he come to me, or connect with me when I enter his paddock. When we lunge does he run on autopilot or does can we connect and work together, does he hear me when I ask or initiate a communication or does is he too anxious to tune into the moment? When I free lunge will he let me walk up to him or walk to me, follow me or does he keep his distance (this was a big one for me, probably because I grew up reading Heartland lol). He has always had strong expression of suspicion and of emotionality when he is unsure, so for me it’s a big signature of the relationship when he demonstrates things opposite in nature.

The first year of our relationship was spent helping him feel into his physicality, in safe ways for us both. And the second year was focused on feeling into what we found in his body, and his emotions, in safe ways for us both. During both these periods we learned each other’s languages. We laid the foundation for our allyship, which required me to let go of any agenda and hear him. And required both of us to sit with some discomfort from our pasts and deepen our ability for presence.

Lately, we are in a new phase. One of learning to lean into the foundation of trust we have built with each other. The last few times we have free lunged, he approached me. A rare but increasing offering of presence it feels like the past two years have been unwinding to.

That’s what our last few riding sessions have felt like too, and even our competition in March. The conversation is steady, now, and the trust is deepening. Because it can. There’s space for it within us both.

It feels like a new frontier in a sense. I’ve supported him in finding ways to express himself functionally, and in return he is beginning to challenge me to believe in the idea of more. Odys seems to be my guide towards believing in my abilities, just as much as I’ve been that for him.

In perfect timing, we have a visit from my good friend Sarah Southwell (www.sarahsouthwell.com) this week for a clinic. Her bi-annual visits are always transformative and deepening, so I am excited to head into this week’s sessions at this juncture with Odys!

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